dcsimg

Physician assistants practice medicine as part of a team of health care professionals such as physicians and surgeons. While they are not traditional doctors, their ultimate goal is to help patients improve their health and well-being. They do this by treating illness and injury and by advising patients on how to recover fully and prevent illness or injury in the future.

These workers perform their duties in all areas of medicine, which means their tasks can vary significantly. While some physician assistants work in primary care and family medicine, others work in emergency medicine, surgery and even psychiatry.

Physician assistants have a great responsibilities, which is why they need to spend a lot of time in college and the medical field before they can even apply to physician assistant programs.

A Day in the Life of a Physician Assistant

Much like a physician or surgeon, physician assistant job duties depend a lot on the day's activities. Even if their work day is mostly planned, they may need to change their plans to care for or assist with critically ill patients — or to save someone's life.

Some of the job duties performed by physician assistants include:

  • Reviewing patient medical history
  • Examining patients in a medical setting
  • Diagnosing patient injury or illness
  • Providing essential treatment for patients, including setting broken bones or administering treatments
  • Ordering diagnostic tests
  • Interpreting diagnostic tests
  • Counseling patients or their families on self-care during or after treatment
  • Prescribing medicines to cure patients or alleviate symptoms
  • Researching patient treatments
  • Recording patient progress
  • Promoting wellness

Important Characteristics for Physician Assistants

While aspiring physician assistants are taught important medical information during their schooling, certain traits can give students in physician assistant training programs an edge. For example, communication skills are especially important since these workers must explain complex medical issues to patients using wording they'll understand. Compassion is also important since physician assistants work directly with sick or injured patients who need help and may be in pain.

Attention to detail is crucial because these professionals need to be able to interpret patient symptoms to come up with an accurate diagnosis. Physician assistants also need to be able to solve problems quickly and efficiently, especially when patient lives are at risk.

Typical Steps for Becoming a Physician Assistant

Since physician assistants perform many of the duties doctors and surgeons perform, physician assistant programs are long and rigorous. Here are the steps someone should take to get started in this career.

1. Earn a high school diploma. Before you can apply to an undergraduate degree program or physician assistant school, you need to complete a high school diploma.

2. Complete an undergraduate degree program. Before you can earn a graduate degree during physician's assistant schooling, you first need to have earned an undergraduate degree in a discipline that could be applicable to the medical field. Options can include, but are not limited to:

  • Bachelor of Science in Registered Nursing
  • Bachelor of Science in Sociology
  • Bachelor of Science in Biology
  • Bachelor of Science in Microbiology

3. Complete at least two years of work in a medical field.

According to the AAPA, most physician assistant programs require a few years of experience in a medical field before you can apply. Jobs that can count toward your experience can include, but are not limited to:

  • Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)
  • Medical Assistant
  • Registered Nurse
  • Paramedic
  • Phlebotomist
  • Surgical Technician
  • Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)
  • Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)

4. Complete a two-year program in physician assisting. While a physician assistant career starts with an undergraduate degree and a few years of experience in a medical career, the bulk of physician assistant schooling takes place during a two-year graduate program. Physician assistant programs include classroom and lab instruction in topics such as anatomy and physiology, pathology, clinical medicine and medical ethics. Clinical training is also offered to help students gain hands-on experience. Successful completion of a program culminates in a graduate degree in physician assisting.

5. Get certified and licensed. All states require physician assistants to become licensed before they can work. To become licensed, they must be able to pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE) from the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA). To keep their licenses up to date, physician assistants must complete at least 100 hours of continuing education every two years, notes the BLS.

Sources:

  • Become a PA, American Academy of PAs, https://www.aapa.org/career-central/become-a-pa/
  • Physician Assistants, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-24 Edition, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/physician-assistants.htm
  • Physician Assistant Program, Eastern Michigan University, https://www.emich.edu/chhs/hphp/pa/

Metro Areas Sorted by Total Employment for
Physician Assistant

Listed below are the 10 largest metro areas based on the total number of people employed in Physician Assistant jobs , as of 2016

     
Metro Area Total Employment Annual Mean Salary
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim 2,560 $102,010
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell 2,300 $103,190
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington 2,180 $96,420
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward 1,960 $119,040
Detroit-Warren-Dearborn 1,900 $82,950
Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale 1,780 $91,130
Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land 1,750 $100,270
Denver-Aurora-Lakewood 1,630 $98,700
Baltimore-Columbia-Towson 1,580 $92,590
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach 1,510 $104,440

Compare Total Employment & Salaries for Physician Assistants

Use our handy tool to see what employment and salary numbers look like for two different metro areas

Select State
Select Metro Area 1
Select Metro Area 2
Employment
Salary

Total employment and salary for professions similar to physician assistants

Source : 2016 Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, BLS.gov

Most Popular Industries for
Physician Assistant

These industries represent at least 1% of the total number of people employed in this occupation.

Industry Total Employment Percent Annual Median Salary
Medical Office 47,450 66% $80,400
Hospital 17,660 24% $84,850
Government 3,060 4% $78,660
Education 1,970 2% $74,220
Office Services And Staffing 900 1% $87,300
Click the Visit School Site buttons to go directly to a school's website and learn more about the school and programs it has to offer. School website will open in a new tab.
Click the Request Info buttons to request more information from a representative at the school.
 
Results:  8
Matching School Ads
Programs
  • Medical Assisting
  • Offers programs in nursing, medical assisting, pharmacy technology, dental assisting, and more.
  • Six Campuses across Northern CA: Fremont, San Jose, Sacramento, S. San Francisco, Hayward, and Concord.
  • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges, with programmatic approvals from the California Board of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians and the Board of Registered Nursing.
  • Approved by the Better Business Bureau (BBB) with an A+ rating since 2010.
camnpus icon
Concord
Request Info
Programs
  • Certificate - Medical Assistant
  • Degree - Medical Assistant
  • Many programs require externships, allowing students to gain real-world experience.
  • Approved A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB) since 1984.
  • Offers 22 accelerated, career-focused program options including business administration, medical assisting, and more.
  • Regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).
  • 11 campuses across California, with an online division as well.
camnpus icon
Ontario
Request Info
Programs
  • Certificate - Medical Administrative Assistant
  • Certificate - Medical Assistant
  • For more than 45 years, PMI has been dedicated to quality healthcare education
  • 17 campuses across 9 states including Arizona, California, Texas, Colorado & more
  • Accredited by the ABHES with multiple accreditations per specific program
  • Certificates, associates, and bachelor’s programs in leading healthcare fields
  • PMI offers financial aid to students who qualify for assistance
camnpus icon
San Marcos
Request Info
Programs
  • Medical Assistant
  • Offers accelerated programs w/ flexible schedules & professional instruction
  • Multiple accredited campuses across 9 states including CA, TX, NV, & PA
  • 10 + programs including Practical Nursing, Dental and Medical Assisting
  • Provides professional development training & career planning resources
  • Military Student Center (MSC) is committed to the success of military students
camnpus icon
Bakersfield
Request Info
Programs
  • Medical Assistant (10-Month Diploma Program)
  • Dedicated to providing  career training since 1975.
  • Has 13 campus locations in Southern California and a campus in Morrow, GA.
  • Provides flexible class times including weekends.
  • Offers curriculum that ranges from 8 month diploma programs to 16-month Associate of Applied Science degree programs.
  • Has admissions professionals available to help students decide which diploma or degree program they should pursue.
  • Gives job placement assistance strengthened by relationships with local employers.
camnpus icon
Fresno
Request Info
Programs
  • Certificate - Medical Assistant
  • Offers a program that translates work and military experience into college credit, transfers in credit from other college programs, and offers the flexibility of day, evening and online coursework.
  • Provides in-person tutoring, IT support, access to library resources, and job placement assistant for graduates.
  • Features a new blended-learning curriculum, which involves a mix of campus and online courses.
  • Has 11 campuses across Southern California, Washington, and Alaska, and online courses with campus support. 
camnpus icon
Oxnard
Request Info
Programs
  • Medical Assistant
  • A Better Business Bureau (BBB) Accredited Business, with an A+ rating.
  • Computer Support Technician program is based on guidelines set by the Computer Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) and Microsoft.
  • Offers free student services, including tutoring, campus internet access, career placement, and a student lounge.
  • Accredited by the Council on Occupational Education (COE).
  • 2 locations in Cathedral City and Twentynine Palms, California.
camnpus icon
Cathedral City
Request Info
Programs
  • Nursing Assistant
  • Offers career programs in accounting, cosmetology, massage therapy, physical fitness training, and more.
  • Provides hands-on training led by instructors who have relevant, on-the-job experience.
  • Each campus features a public salon and spa for student practice.
  • Campuses are accredited by the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET) and Council on Occupational Education (COE).
  • 11 campuses across California, Texas, Nevada and Idaho, as well as 8 additional Milan Institute of Cosmetology campuses.
camnpus icon
Visalia
Request Info

We have some additional detailed pages at the state level for Physician Assistant.

Numbers in parentheses are counts of relevant campus-based schools in the state; online schools may also be available.

Back to Top